Director: Jacob Kindberg
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 3.5/10
Not being a Christian, I had no idea who Dennis Jernigan was going into the documentary Sing Over Me, which takes an intimate look at the man and his career as a Christian singer. While the film is well shot and seems to contain a very real and candid portrait of Jernigan, there’s little here that will appeal to anyone but those already familiar with his story.
Dennis Jernigan became one of the biggest Christian singer/songwriters of our time, but this film explores the man behind the music and his struggles with homosexuality more than his prolific rise within the always-booming Christian music scene.
Coming from a devout Christian home, Jernigan recognized that he was gay from an early age, and actively hid it from those around him. His tendencies brought him shame and would later cause depression and suicidal thoughts. Only through his music could Dennis truly express himself, which would later become his outlet for salvation.
The interesting thing about Dennis, is that he recognizes that being gay is not a life choice, like so many other Christians believe. He openly admits his homosexuality and has since used it as a large part of his songwriting and inspiration. Unfortunately, he still views homosexuality with a negative connotation and likens it to the temptations that Jesus had to overcome. Dennis believes that he has beat his homosexual urges and is now a happily married man with nine children.
Many Christians look at Dennis as an influential and inspirational figure as someone who struggled with these “urges” and overcame them. They look at his past and see the pain and suffering this caused him and feel proud that he was able to use his faith to get through it. While Dennis himself looks at this like it’s a test of some sort, many will look at his story from a completely different angle.
When viewing the film myself, I looked at it as his religion that made him ashamed of his sexual orientation, not the other way around. He claims that it was his homosexual tendencies that made him depressed, but it seems that if he wasn’t so hung up on his Christian ideals, he would be able to embrace who he is and not have the constant “struggle.” This isn’t a movie about being true to yourself, it’s a movie about repressing your feelings and forcing a sense of Christian normalcy.
This idea shouldn’t fault the filmmakers, as they were simply documenting this guy’s life, but it makes everything in the film very hard to swallow. On the plus side, the film is extremely well shot and well edited. Although it tends to be heavy handed at times, with cuts to Dennis playing piano in an empty field in the rain, it still looks quite good.
Unlike something like Jesus Camp, Sing Over Me is the type of film that will appeal to only those who are already devout Christians. Dennis Jernigan’s ideology seems backward and borderline poisonous to more progressive individuals, which will immediately sour any hope of this film reaching anyone other than the super Christian market.